National / Politics

Japan may take Taiwan’s Fukushima food import ban to WTO

Kyodo

Japan may take Taiwan’s import ban on food products from Fukushima and other prefectures affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster to the World Trade Organization, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Sunday.

“It goes against the WTO’s quarantine-related agreement,” Kono said, referring to Taiwan’s ban on products from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

Taiwan voted to maintain the ban in a legally binding referendum on Nov. 25. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee said the ministry respected public opinion on the issue and will explain to Japan the safety concerns of the Taiwanese public.

At the WTO, “there is a procedure that allows (a member state) to file a complaint. If necessary, we need to act,” Kono told a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.

“The WTO sets clear rules that (import bans) should be decided based on scientific foundations,” he said.

Following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the prefectural government has sought to ease consumer concern about the safety of farm and fishery products through radiation checks.

Since 2015, all shipments of rice from Fukushima have cleared the screening, with radioactive cesium levels below the 100 becquerel per kilogram limit set by the Japanese government for agricultural, forestry and fishery products. No samples of vegetables and fruit from Fukushima have exceeded the legal limit in inspections since April 2013, and no fishery products have since 2015.

The Japanese chamber in Taiwan, with 471 member companies, has also called on the Taiwanese government to re-examine the ban based on scientific evidence.

As of August, the Taiwanese government has inspected over 125,000 samples of imported food products from Japan since March 15, 2011, with none exceeding the island’s legal limits for radiation, according to the Japanese chamber.

Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner, while Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.